Suspense drama which will keep you guessing to the very end.
Is It Worth Watching? Yes! Watch it before Season 2 comes out.
From the trailer, Homecoming looked like another one of Amazon’s mediocre Prime Original series. What made me watch it, apart from the fact that I’ve promised to review everything good or bad, was Julia Roberts. I’m not a big fan, but you’ve got to admit she can act. And it’s her acting that has lifted this program to a highly watchable level.
In the trailer, Julia Roberts says, ‘Homecoming is a safe space,’ but from Act I Scene I you know it’s anything but. On the surface, Homecoming is a transitional support centre for soldiers to recover from PTSD in order to rejoin civilian life and become a productive citizen of the society. Roberts is a counsellor who helps them get past their most brutal experiences. All looks pretty good, until Roberts starts talking to her boss over the phone who refers to Homecoming as an experiment and is very keen that the soldiers are eating all their meals. Something is very fishy. And Shea Whigham (Boardwalk Empire) is about to find out exactly how fishy.
The direction is fabulous. It’s so Alfred Hitchcock. The way the music builds up to a crescendo as the tension rises only to come to an abrupt halt. The scenes are framed just so against the soulless building in the middle of nowhere with a dirty pond outside and a pelican which has the most annoying call. It’s a protected species, Roberts explains, so there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Rest assured, the pelican is not just a prop; like everyone else it plays its part. The program runs in two timelines: the present (2022) and the past (2018). But the depiction is reversed. The past seems more modern in widescreen, whereas the present is filmed in a tighter aspect ratio, making the viewer feel as claustrophobic as Roberts’s character Heidi who has no memory of her life at Homecoming. Another interesting effect is the way the end credits roll over the last scene while it plays out silently in the back, adding to the tension.
Julia Roberts completely made this program for me. She is incredible as both a sincere counsellor in 2018 and a tired waitress in 2022. Of course, the way she looks has been changed in both timelines to accentuate the difference, but really it’s Roberts’s portrayal of the self-assured, hardworking Heidi and the down-on-her-luck Heidi that keeps the viewer guessing.
Roberts is supported by three other characters: Walter Cruz, her favourite soldier; Colin Belfast, her boss; and Thomas Carrasco, a DoD bureaucrat who is simply following up on a complaint against the Homecoming facility. Although Roberts would have been able to carry this program singlehandedly, both Bobby Cannavale (Belfast) and Shea Whigham (Carrasco) make her job easy. Cannavale plays the result-motivated, slightly psychotic boss to perfection, making you want to punch his face every time he speaks. Whigham’s character, on the other hand, is a docile but determined official who only wants to do his job properly, eventually revealing the scandal.
Daft as it may seem, I am enthralled by the breakaway glasses that Whigham wears in this series. Although nothing as cool as Morpheus’s pince-nez in Matrix, in fact downright headteachery, the glasses are just fascinating. It’s probably something to do with the ease with which Whigham attaches and detaches them, but I really, really want one. Better put it on the Christmas list.
Season 2 of Homecoming is under development. It would be interesting to see what direction the story line will take, but we know that Julia Roberts will not be in it. Janelle Monae is her replacement!